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Thursday, January 20, 2000

Bunton happy to return to full-time work

Staff Writer
PECOS, Jan. 20, 2000 -- Feeling relaxed and comfortable sitting in his chambers at the federal courthouse named for him, Senior Judge Lucius Bunton is happy to return to full time work.

"It feels really good to be back," said Bunton. "I'm slowing down, but I've set a goal for myself."

Bunton said his goal is to try one jury trial a week for this year. "And so far this is the third week in January and we're waiting for the third jury," he said.

Bunton underwent cancer surgery last spring and has been recuperating from the experience. Judge Royal Furgeson had been handling most of Bunton's caseload during the months he was away from the bench. He had only been back to limited work until this week, when he handled a full load of cases, including a jury trial Tuesday and Wednesday.

"I think I'm as over that as I'll ever get," said Bunton. "I've learned that if you don't call the doctors, they won't call you back."

Even though Bunton did not have to undergo chemotherapy following  bladder surgery, he will still continue to need medical attention. "When they got the bladder they said they got all the cancer out," he said.

Bunton, who served as Chief Judge for the Western District of Texas before taking Senior Judge status seven years ago, also suffers from other ailments.

He recently lost about 30 percent of lung capacity, totally unrelated to his surgery. "But I'm feeling better," he added.

He is also looking forward to his 50th law school reunion. "We'll be having our 50th anniversary," said Bunton. "I got my license in 1949."

Bunton graduated from the University of Texas, joined the army for three years and later graduated from law school, also at UT.

Bunton had two major projects the last couple of years. One was writing his memoirs and  the history of Western District of Texas, from the time there was a jury in 1859 until now.

"They've been published, but not yet distributed," said Bunton.

Bunton said he hasn't begun on any major projects recently but does have one in mind. "I think I'll start organizing photographs," said Bunton. "That's going to be my next project, but it's something you have to put your mind to do."

"It's a tremendous undertaking and you have to set aside a lot of time," he said.

Reading has become one of his favorite hobbies. "It's just my wife and me now, and the children live elsewhere, so we don't get to be with them very much," he said.

Bunton plans to continue as a judge for a while longer, something he has done for the past 20 years.

Jurors acquit trucker of pot smuggling

Staff Writer
PECOS, Jan. 20, 2000 -- A federal court jury deliberated for three hours Wednesday before finding a Haltom City man not guilty of attempting to transport over a half-ton of marijuana from Lajitas to the Dallas-Fort Worth area in November.

Jurors found Oscar Armando Miranda not guilty shortly after 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, following three hours of deliberation. Miranda had testified in his own defense Wednesday morning in the trial, held before U.S. District Court Judge Lucius D. Bunton III.

The indictment charged Miranda, of Haltom City, with possession of marijuana over 100 kilograms (220 pounds) and under 1000 kg, after the truck he was operating was found to contain 1,280 pounds of marijuana. Miranda was staying at the Lajitas Hotel the night of Nov. 19, 1999, when agents searched his truck parked outside and discovered the marijuana hidden inside six pallets of flagstone that had been loaded from the Lajitas Lumber Yard the previous day.

Agents said the marijuana was found in 29 bundles wrapped in cellophane, with the marijuana stuffed into PCV pipe and covered in roofing tar inside the cellophane. Miranda said he had been hired to drive the truck from Lajitas to the Arlington area.

Prosecutors entered into evidence photos of the truck and area around the motel, along with a motel registration card that showed an El Paso address for the defendant. Miranda had been unemployed and had only held several short-term jobs in the previous five years.

Miranda's attorney George Trimber presented the jury with evidence on truck route forms, a driver's log and newspaper job ads from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and Thrifty Nickel shopper to support Miranda's claims of innocence.

Jurors deliberated for about two hours, and focused on the fact that Miranda was in the motel room at the time the truck was searched by a drug-sniffing dog. They jury originally split 11-1 in favor of acquittal, before returning an hour later with the not guilty verdict.

Holcombe cites experience in county attorney race

PECOS, Jan. 20, 2000 -- Walter Holcombe says his experience and dedication will be an asset to the Reeves County Attorney's office, which is one of the reasons he is running for the position for a second time.

"The Office of County Attorney is most tedious and complex, bearing in mind that his primary duty is not to convict, but to see that justice is done," said Holcombe, who will face challenger Luis U. Carrasco in the March 14 Democratic party primary election.

To assure "justice" one must be fair to all concerned, the general public, the victims of crime, and the defendants and can only be achieved by experience, according to Holcombe.

"I have the necessary experience as an Air Force Veteran dealing with personal and Court Martials, a BBA graduate from Baylor University and a Doctors of Jurisprudence Decree from St. Mary's Law School," said Holcombe.

He cited his experience as a businessman and a rancher, along with 10 years as a criminal defense attorney, 25 years as a civil attorney, three years as bailiff for the San Antonio, Bexar County Grand Jury, two years part-time U.S. Magistrate, and 10 years as a prosecutor, as an asset to the county attorney's office.

Holcombe resides in Pecos, where has lived for most of his live, with his wife Martha "Sis" Holcombe. The couple has raised three children, Yvonna Johnson, a court reporter who lives in Pecos, son, Walt, a cartoonist in Austin and daughter Merry Spencer, who currently resides in Illinois.

Holcombe said the office faces the same problems in prosecution as does a felony district attorney, but has a much, much heavier caseload as misdemeanors involve the processing of some 150 matters monthly. They include cases of family violence, misdemeanors offenses, mental health and juvenile law matters, all without any assistants or a full time investigator, according to Holcombe.

"Obviously, many cases presented are refused due to many unfair, biased, frivolous complaints, lack of sufficient evidence, etc.," he said. "Justice thus requires fairness to all and experience is absolutely necessary to assure that one is not charged with a crime when such is not justified, but if it be justified, then it should be prosecuted."

"I have always tried to be fair to all concerned in my pursuits as a prosecutor," said Holcombe.

"In 1999 alone, 647 new misdemeanor cases were filed, plus about 50 juvenile cases; 78 docket calls were attended for Justice of Peace, County and District Courts (including approximately 22 felony cases where the D.A. was conflicted); and 567 Justice of the Peace matters were concluded. My office collected some $52,813.96 by collecting some 503 `hot checks' for our local merchants.

"I hope I can rely on the majority of the voters support during this campaign," said Holcombe

"I respectfully plea for all voters to please vote in the March 14 elections," he said.

Financial aid night planned Tuesday

PECOS, Jan. 20, 2000 -- A college financial aid night has been scheduled for next Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in the Pecos High School cafeteria.

The workshop is sponsored by PHS counselors Eve Arriola and Pat Cobos. Guest speaker Cesar Ramos of the Panhandle-Plains Higher Education Authority will offer important information at the workshop, which will be presented in both English and Spanish. A $100 scholarship drawing will also be held.

For further information, call 447-7229.


AUSTIN (AP) - Results of the Lotto Texas drawing Wednesday night: Winning numbers drawn: 1-6-15-23-34-43. Estimated jackpot: $7 million. Number matching six of six: 0. Matching five of six: 73. Prize: $1,538. Matching four of six: 4,180. Prize: $96.


AUSTIN (AP) - The winning Pick 3 numbers drawn Wednesday by the Texas Lottery, in order: 2-6-7 (two, six, seven)


High Wednesday 85. Low this morning 41. Forecast for tonight: Partly cloudy. Low in the upper 30s. Southeast wind 5-15 mph. Friday: Partly cloudy. High in the lower 70s. Southwest wind 10-20 mph. Friday night: Partly cloudy. Low near 40. Saturday: Partly cloudy. High 65-70.

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